After a successful 2017, which included scooping silver at the 70.3 Triathlon World Championship, pro triathlete and former duathlon world champ, Emma Pallant, is approaching the 2018 season with even more fire in her belly. But what does a typical day in her life look like?
Here, the former GB track athlete shares what a day as a pro triathlete and Team Dillon coach entails – from swim-bike-run training to writing coaching programmes.
When we’re in England I’ll often spend all day down at the gym because I know people here, and between sessions I can sit down and do my work. I’ll have all my training kit for the day in the car and will often arrive around 7:30am and not leave until 8pm. For me, that feels like I’m going out for a full day’s work, so when I get home to my flat I can relax and have an hour or so to unwind before I go to bed.
I tend to train around 40 hours or so a week, but it depends on the block. The closer we get to race season, the more it drops – base training will always be the highest volume out of season.
My favourite training session of the week is a hard brick session – a turbo to a treadmill – because there’s no hiding. You’re against the numbers. It always feels like I’m racing because Michelle [Dillon, my coach] will meet me down at the gym, and I’ll get nervous and will prepare for it like I would a race. I’ll put pressure on myself to hit certain targets, and you always hit the deep, dark place, the place where progress is made – I love this uncomplicated, balls-out, pure painful push!
My least favourite session is probably the swim after a brick session because it’s my weakness and it always feels like a slog – my form can be quite sloppy!
I’m super-excited for the coming year. We had our best ever training block in Spain during the last few months and I’m focusing on 70.3 Worlds this year with the aim to have another stab at Ironman after September (because we don’t want it to impact on the champs). If the duathlon and aquathlon events fit into this then I’ll race them, too. We also found a few areas that I can make real gains in this triathlon season so I’m excited to target these in the next few months. The evolution in constant.
Bring on the hard work!
Mornings: 7am start for a key swim session
We try to do our main sessions at around 8am so most days I’ll set my alarm for 7am (although often I wake-up around 6:30am). I then grab a coffee and a bar of something light to eat, unless it’s a long, hard session and then I might have a bowl of porridge. I catch up on a few emails, write a work to-do list for the day, and I’m trying to get in the habit of stretching – I definitely need to stretch more!
The type of session we start with totally depends on the day, but in England it will always be the key session of the day so we’ll alternate between swim and brick sessions.
A typical key swim session would be sets of 400m; it’s that hard, middle-distance session where you have to swim hard but hold it for a long time. I won’t do key work using training aids, but I’ll warm-up with a pullbuoy, band and paddles, and mix them all up in the warm-down too.
I coach 14 athletes for Team Dillon and so I spend a lot of time between sessions answering emails, reading studies and writing programmes. I love it because it gives me a real balance in life. It makes me sit down and rest between training, but also challenges me mentally.
Lunch/Afternoon: Bike then evening run
Normally, I’ll be doing my second session of the day over a typical lunchtime. I don’t really have set meal times; I eat around training when it fits in. If, say, if I’ve done a key swim session then I’ll have another small meal like eggs on toast before we head out on the bike, and then just keep fuelled on our long ride. I’ll then have something small when I get back because I’ll have a run to do in the evening, and if I eat too much it always gets the gut!
If possible, when the weather is good, I’ll always try to do my steady riding outside and normally Michelle or Stu will hop out with me for part of the ride so that I’m not doing all my training on my own. My biking is an area we’re really looking to target and we’re bringing in more power sessions soon so the mileage will drop; the aim is to get stronger on the bike and be well above race pace. I often use vifit (our Bmc nutrition sponsor) as recovery because they have some great protein products and it’s all natural. I am a big sweater, so for me it’s really important to stay well hydrated through the day as well, as this helps my recovery.
I’ll then sit down again to do a bit of work before I run in the evening.
A run will often be around an hour and we mix up whether I do this outside or on the treadmill. Variation is super-key to our training and my training blocks are always evolving. We then repeat what is working and bin what we didn’t find so good, so we’re constantly testing ourselves to be sure we can provide the best coaching. I’d say a typical volume of running in a hard block would be around 90km a week or so, but when we focus on my biking this will drop.
Evening: Eat, write coaching programmes, and bed by 10pm
I often won’t leave the gym until 7pm or so, and will grab some food from the shops on the way home. Then, at home, I can get back to writing some programmes and answering emails. I try to switch off around 9pm so that I can be ready to sleep by 10pm (though this rarely happens!).
Food will normally be a form of veg, meat and some rice or potatoes – sweet potato is my all-time fave!
I often feel it’s harder to sleep if I’m really pumped from a hard day of training, and I find I’m more lethargic if I’ve had an easy day, which is something I have to figure out when I’m tapering. Michelle works hard to keep me moving without tiring me out. Having my mind occupied definitely helps though, as does coaching my athletes. I pass on all that I learn from races (and from Michelle and Stu), and we’re always bouncing ideas around, learning from everyone we meet to make sure Team Dillon delivers the highest quality coaching.
We coach all abilities. Michelle’s one mantra is that we help people ‘be the best they can be’. If we can help them progress then we pour our ability into this and it’s so rewarding. You form such great relationships with people and so much of it is about problem-solving and getting the best out of people, growing with them and seeing them achieve their goals – nothing feels better! I feel like as an athlete you can become so self-consumed, but this gives me the balance and I love the human contact and interaction.
Every person is so different and so to be able to coach someone as an individual is always exciting!
To keep up with Emma’s triathlon training and races you can follow her on social media via www.instagram.com/em_pallant, www.twitter.com/emmapallant and www.facebook.com/EmoPallant. For more information about Team Dillon coaching and training camps visit www.teamdilloncoaching.com.
Special thanks to James Mitchell Photography.